Jenna Phillips

Jenna Phillips

Postdoctoral Fellow

Gilman 338D
Thursday 10:30 a.m.-noon; and by appointment


I am a medieval historian, specializing in the social and cultural history of France. My current book project, “Sound, Violence, and the Period Ear in Thirteenth-Century France,” focuses on the production of vernacular records—manuscripts containing poetry and secular music— under the patronage of the count of Artois, Robert II (1249-1302). In the project, I aim to recapture, to the extent that I can, a lost sound-world at a time when memory and written record began to thrive side by side. The thirteenth century witnessed the triumph of the vernacular languages, manifested in an outpouring of new documents recording verse and song, propaganda and political satire, as well as the clarion calls of revolt of subjugated peoples. Voices that had long echoed in court and city were finding their way into manuscript productions, especially amid the increasingly literate, documentary culture of northern France.

My approach is to situate these records in the social and political context that produced them, while taking advantage of the emergent thirteenth-century "recording technology"—the proliferation of musical notation—to listen to popular voices with an historian's ear. Working from the archives of Robert II of Artois, a patron of musical performers and a consummate warrior, I investigate the startling dualities posed by these texts. The counterpoint to so many elegantly-crafted melodies and verses of erotic conquest was one of violence and warfare—the French aristocracy's military conquests, political crusades, and wars of expansion. Setting these records into their social and political contexts, examining their patrons, authors and performers allows us to reconstruct what we may think of as "the Period Ear."

Another area of research has centered on trade and commerce in the medieval Mediterranean, and I have published an article on the fourteenth-century Venetian merchant, Bandino Garzoni, based on the discovery of several of his documents in Princeton University’s Scheide Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

In 2016, I earned my doctorate at Princeton University, under the supervision of William Chester Jordan. Prior to that, I studied medieval English at the University of Oxford, and completed my BA at the University of California at Berkeley with a concentration in History, Folklore and English.

“The Capetian Century, 1214-1314” ed. by William Chester Jordan and Jenna Phillips (forthcoming from Brepols, 2017).

“Priced to Sell? The Medieval Housing Market in Venice and the Making of Bandino Garzoni” The Princeton Library Chronicle, vol. 72 (2011), 486-